I felt good and thought I could do about as many miles today as I did yesterday. The trail had been mostly easy yesterday. The only difficult part came near the end and I wasn’t especially tired when I finished.
The steady white noise of a stream flowing near our campsite lulled me to sleep last night. I awoke this morning to the sound of a chirping bird. I’m not sure what kind of bird it was, but it sounded more like a cheap alarm clock than a bird. Ralph was heading back to Rainy Pass today and I didn’t expect to see him again for about four days. There are no places for him to park and meet me between here and Stevens Pass. I’ll be on my own until he parks his truck there and walks north to meet with me.
There was surprisingly little snoring last night in the hostel bunk room. Or put more accurately, I heard surprisingly little snoring. I cannot confirm nor deny I snored. The room was too warm, though, so I didn’t sleep well. I was feeling groggy when I got up at 6 a.m. and moved slowly as I prepared to leave.
Yesterday was my longest mileage day since returning to the trail, but with the last quarter of the miles all downhill, it didn’t feel taxing. I also finished earlier than expected, despite taking a long break at Hart’s Pass. Today was going to be an easy day, too. It would start out with a long climb, but my pack was light because I wasn’t carrying much food. I could tell by looking at the trail profile that after the climb, the rest of the way to Rainy Pass would be especially easy. Ralph and I planned to meet on the trail, then pick up his truck at Rainy Pass and drive into Winthrop to stay for the night. I had already prepared a resupply box, which was waiting for me in Ralph’s truck, so we didn’t even need to go shopping. If thru-hiking were always this easy, everyone would want to do it.
When I flipped to Washington, my first two days back on the trail were partly sunny. But after Ralph and I touched the northern terminus monument and headed south, clouds became increasingly darker and temperatures dropped a few degrees each day. Dreary, rainy weather isn’t unexpected for the Northern Cascades. At least, we’ve been lucky that most of the rain has fallen at night.
Many of the photos posted in this website were also shared on social media. Through those posts I received many thoughtful, complimentary comments about my photography. I enjoy taking photos and I feel they do a better job of telling the stories of my hikes, but I don’t consider myself a good photographer. And while I appreciate the flattery, I must point out that it is nearly impossible to take bad photos on the PCT. I only need to point my camera in any direction and I'm likely to capture an image of something interesting or beautiful or both.
Starting where we began hiking the day before yesterday, the PCT is 29.4 miles to the northern terminus. In order to hike all of the PCT, which I intend to do, I have to hike those miles twice. I’m not going to complain about repeating those miles, though. This section of the trail has been wonderful. Retracing my steps today and tomorrow only means I get to see the same views from a different perspective.
Rain fell overnight and what must have been a gallon of water seeped into my tent. The water didn’t come from one leak, it came from several. I knew the tent ceiling had a few pinholes, but I didn’t realize until now that the floor had become a sieve. My tent is a Zpacks Duplex, which is made with an ultralight fabric called Dyneema Composite Fabric (formerly called Cuben Fiber). It’s strong but doesn’t hold up well to abrasion and long-term use. It would seem after more than 3,000 miles, I’ve reached the end of my long-term use of this tent. That’s not a good spot to be in when I still have about 1,900 miles to go on this hike.
After sitting and waiting and viewing the online snow gauge at Hart’s Pass countless numbers of times, the day finally came for me to return to the Pacific Crest Trail. My wife Kim and I had flown to Washington, and after visiting family, a few tourist spots in the Seattle area, several breweries and a winery, we spent last night in Winthrop. We met my friend Ralph there, and today he was joining me for much of my hiking over the next 25 days.
Hiking with the Woohoo Crew was a great joy. I wish we could have kept hiking as a group. It’s hard to hold together a group like that, though. By the time we reached Kennedy Meadows, only three of us had hiked every mile. Most of the rest had hiked most of the miles but needed to skip some for a variety of reasons.
A light rain fell through much of the night. The overnight temperature had been chilly, but when the sun came up the temperature continued to drop. There was no need to rush today. We had less than nine miles of trail to hike, plus a couple more miles of road walking. I stayed in my tent and listened to the rain. When it seemed to stop at 7 a.m., I began packing and preparing for my last day in the desert.
When I mapped out a hiking plan from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows, there were a couple of question marks for today’s part of the plan. I was unsure how far we would want to walk because I knew Gilligan was having trouble with her feet. I also knew camping opportunities were limited. According to the information I found in trail guides, the terrain ahead was exposed and there were only a small number of tent sites with sufficient room to pitch all of our tents. “Might be possible to go farther, though, due to lighter food load,” I added to my notes for today’s leg of the plan. Now that Gilligan and Captain were not hiking with us, it seemed more likely we’d want to take the farther option.
I was anxious this morning to get back on the trail. Today was the start of the last section I would hike in the desert. It's often difficult to leave town after a resupply stop and this day was no exception.
Today was the last nero day of the desert. We were going into the town of Ridgecrest, where we could resupply for our last section to Kennedy Meadows. How we would get there was still up in the air before we began hiking, but we had options. We could hitchhike, call a shuttle driver, or catch a bus.
I wouldn’t want to be a trail maintainer in this part of the PCT. It has to be a tough job keeping the trail in a safe, walkable condition. Around here, maintainers aren't just combatting extreme weather and wear-and-tear. They’re also in a constant fight against encroachment by off-road vehicles. Many dirt roads criss-cross this part of the desert. Some of the roads may be relics of gold mining days. Others might have been constructed to aid in firefighting. It’s obvious, though, that owners of Jeeps, dune buggies, ATVs, dirt bikes, and such have been using them for joy-riding.